NSW HEALTH blocked a $50 million funding application to the Federal Government for the redevelopment of Armidale Hospital, according to documents obtained under Freedom of Information.
Federal Member for New England Tony Windsor made the Freedom of Information request in order to discover why the Armidale Hospital upgrade was not submitted to round four of the Commonwealth Government's Health and Hospital Fund (HHF).
Hunter New England Health's (HNEH) submission to the HHF's third Regional Priority Round for the hospital was rejected in 2010, though some other projects were invited to resubmit for round four in 2011.
In a letter to Ministry of Health director-general Dr Mary Foley, HNEH CEO Michael DiRienzio said it was critical "for the future delivery of health services in the Armidale district" that a new submission be made to round four of the fund. Mr DiRienzio said the proposal required only "minor adjustment" to be included as part of the State Government's submission.
In a return letter, Dr Foley advised the submission would not be included, noting that HNEH was not invited to resubmit a proposal for the hospital. She also cited other reasons for the decision, including feedback from the HHF advisory board, timeframe considerations and the resource investment required.
Mr Windsor claimed Dr Foley's reasons for not submitting a proposal were an "insult" to Armidale, pointing out that a federal Department of Health representative advised that round four was also open to previously unsuccessful applicants.
“A general invitation was put out for round four to access the remaining $475 million which had been split off from the original $1.8 billion partly to allow those applications like the Armidale Hospital that didn’t meet the eligibility criteria in round three to resubmit a revised application," he said.
“These emails expose the machinations of NSW Health and the Minister as they tried to cover their role in blocking the Armidale Hospital redevelopment."
Health Minister Jillian Skinner told Parliament in September last year that the application was not lodged as the Commonwealth had not given HNEH the opportunity to resubmit.
Mrs Skinner made similar comments during a recent visit to Armidale.
"There was a submission put together for round three before I was the Minister," she said. "The Commonwealth ruled that it didn't meet the criteria for the fund and so it didn't proceed. Other projects on that round didn't meet the criteria either and they were invited to resubmit; this wasn't."
Mr Windsor accused Mrs Skinner of playing politics with the hospital redevelopment and said the public deserved answers.
"The people of Armidale deserve to know the truth about why the ball was dropped and by whom," he said.
"Mrs Skinner and the NSW Government need to be held to account for their behaviour and I trust that all community representatives will pursue the truth."
Northern Tablelands MP Richard Torbay said pressure needed to be applied at both the state and federal level in order to secure the funding.
"I'll be doing my best to ensure that the state does what it can to get the development underway, but we also need to ensure that we receive federal support for the plan," he said.